Happy Earth Month!

West Chester Mayor Jordan Norley has officially proclaimed April 2021 as Earth Month in the Borough of West Chester PA. Please see the Chesco Environment Calendar for environment/sustainability events this month, including many in the Borough.

Download pdf of the proclamation here.

Doug Tallamy, “Nature’s Best Hope”

Doug Tallamy, a widely acclaimed professor in the Dept. of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, is scheduled to give an in-person talk in West Chester on Sept. 15, 2021.

He gave this talk at the Virtual Siouxland Garden Show on March 26, 2021. His overall theme is that Nature is built from millions of specialized interactions, as between insects and plants, and that we destroy those interactions at our peril. In fact, people (and our food supply) are totally dependent on the very “ecosystem services” that we are threatening.

Here is his summary:

“Recent headlines about global insect declines and three billion fewer birds in North America are a bleak reality check about how ineffective our current landscape designs have been at sustaining the plants and animals that sustain us. Such losses are not an option if we wish to continue our current standard of living on planet Earth. The good news is that none of this is inevitable. Let’s look at simple steps that each of us can and must take to reverse declining biodiversity and explain why we, ourselves, are nature’s best hope.”

Being part of that hope means respecting nature: climate, water, air, plants, animals, and yes, insects. As summarized by the great entomologist E. O. Wilson:

Local Gardening and Living Landscapes: Transitioning to Productive Futures 

By WCU Office of Sustainability, WC Area Transition, WC Green Team, and members of Chesco Environment Alliance

APRIL 7 at 7 pm: Local Gardening and Living Landscapes: Transitioning to Productive Futures 

Host:  Brad Flamm
Moderator: Joan Welch
Community Gardening:  Ashlie Delshad
Sustainable Vegetable Gardening:  Jim Hines
Pollinator Gardens:  Sallie Jones
Students in Gardening:  Elizabeth Schultz

More info and registration HERE.

Refuting climate change denial: renewable energy is the only hope

by Bill Haaf

Bill Haaf retired from DuPont after 38 yrs, after working as a chemist, Certified Industrial Hygienist, leader of site audits and the first corporate environmental audit, and global manager of Product Stewardship for 15 yrs. He is a Board member of Chester County Citizens 4 Climate Protection and has installed significant energy efficiency upgrades to his home to “walk the talk.”

I offer feedback on the Feb. 24 Daily Local News guest column by H. Sterling Burnett, a Heartland Institute senior fellow.

Both he and the Heartland Institute have a long history of climate change denial. However, he is a lone voice, as the world’s climate scientists disagree with him. NASA, NOAA, IPCC, WMO, UCS and 100 more worldwide scientific organizations all agree that burning fossil fuels is overheating the world.

It appears that Mr Burnett’s goal is to distort facts while attacking one solution to climate change. His goal of course is to try and help save the declining oil and natural gas industry. Mr Burnett, the oil and gas companies and lobby groups should become part of the solution, not contribute to overheating and its impacts. The crisis in Texas was a failure of natural gas and coal and only to a smaller degree of wind power.

Climate risk is the real issue here.

The very first issue that must be addressed whenever you discuss the value of various energy sources is risk. Are the risks managed? Are any unacceptable?

The worldwide scientific community has been in consensus for at least 25 yrs: burning fossil fuels is causing the planet to overheat with huge terrible impacts. I have put several well-documented significant risks below.

These risks are unacceptable both to humans and every life form (see references below):

– Sea levels will rise, forcing millions to evacuate coastal areas; storm surges will be larger and more damaging; storm strength will increase greatly;

– Huge areas of the world will be too hot to live or work in, forcing hundreds of millions to flee;

– Most global forest areas will become carbon emitters not carbon sinks, or die off.

– All insects and mammal will be impacted and risk extinction;

– Coral reefs and sea life that live there will die;

– All polar bears will die;

– Food crop yields will drop;

– Fish stocks will move and decrease;

– Oceans will warm and turn more acidic; ocean currents may weaken or relocate;

– Wildfires will increase greatly

However, the biggest concern is warming of the permafrost. Permafrost already is releasing much carbon dioxide and methane into the air. This feedback system is irreversible and threatens all human civilization.

Every person now 20 yrs or younger will face grave risks from a hot planet. It is very very difficult to reverse the heat gain. Continued burning of fossil fuels  endangers all our grandchildren.

The oil and gas industry MUST practice good product stewardship for products designed to be burned. The industry must begin the transition to avoid disaster and many human deaths. Employees need a fair and just transition path.

Here are some rebuttals to the erroneous data and logic regarding renewable energy used by Mr Burnett in his editorial.

1. Texas should have learned from the 2011 freeze-up power crisis. The wind turbines in Iowa or Minnesota or Canada perform well in very cold weather. The references below show that the joint failure of coal and natural gas was the major cause, but wind generation also had power loss. Failures in all power transmission contributed a lot to the problem. As low-cost wind and solar grow, the grid will need more cost-effective power storage. This could be large-scale batteries or pumped water, or renewable hydrogen or mechanical, or renewable methane or R-propane and dimethyl ether.

2. Great discussion by real energy experts in Texas:  In response to the unprecedented 254-county weather emergency in Texas and the subsequent loss of power to millions of Texans, the Advanced Power Alliance and Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation just hosted a forum of energy experts to assess two very important questions: What went wrong in Texas and what should be done about it.  Energy experts Alison Silverstein, Dr. Dan Cohan, Dr. Joshua Rhodes, and Michael Jewell offered observations on the interconnected causes of the energy crisis, and thoughts on ways Texas can avoid an event of this kind in the future.

3. “Fossil Freeze: Deadly Texas Catastrophe Shows How Natural Gas Systems Can Fail when Demand Spikes” by Sharon Kelly, February 26, 2021, here.

4.Fact check: The causes for Texas’ blackout go well beyond wind turbines” by Reuters Staff, February 19, 2021, here.

West Chester, Phila et al. sue PA legislature over “ban on bans”

from PennEnvironment, 3/3/21

PA cities’ lawsuit to undo General Assembly’s preemption crucial to addressing plastic pollution

Municipalities must be empowered to address pollution issues when legislature won’t For Immediate Release Wednesday, March 3, 2021

image from West Chester Plastic-Free Please Action Group vigil, 2/14/20

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia joined with the municipalities of Lower Merion, Narberth (Montgomery County) and West Chester (Chester County) to file a lawsuit Wednesday against Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. The suit claims the legislature unconstitutionally enacted a preemption law that strips the ability of local communities and officials across the commonwealth to implement ordinances addressing waste and litter from single-use plastics. 

This action comes as mounting data shows that plastic pollution has significant negative effects on our health and environment. Notably, a report released this week by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center found microplastic contamination existed in 100 percent of water samples taken from more than 50 of Pennsylvania’s most popular rivers, lakes and streams

PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur issued the following statement

read more at PennEnvironment

Going Net Zero – Jakob’s Solar Panel Installation

Paige Vermeulen introduces Jakob Speksnijder to viewers in front of his newly solar-enabled house

Interview with Jakob Speksnijder about his quest for Net Zero, moderated by Paige Vermeulen, produced by Claudio Productions, posted 2/18/21. Jakob’s advice: commit to the easy steps to reduce home energy use, such as insulation, composting, rain barrels, air dry clothes…. Read up on solar, the best home solution at this time, talk to people who have installed solar, and proceed! Solar, he said, costs only about half as much now as it did ten years ago. His next step will be to install high-capacity batteries to store the energy his solar array produces, and to take his home entirely off grid, so that his home will not use fossil fuels (and, of course, he will not fear the power outages that will probably become more frequent with increasingly extreme weather conditions). Click here to view.

PA legislative Climate Caucus urges priorities

On Jan. 27, the legislative Climate Caucus sent a letter to Gov. Wolf, whose signatories include, from Chester County, Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-155) and Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-19).

The letter, entitled “The social, economic, and environmental case for a Climate Action budget,” urges that “Pennsylvania’s budget framework be intentional in its efforts to address the three crises of our moment: racial justice, economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19, and advancement on climate action in Pennsylvania.”

Download the letter here.

What If Lakes And Rivers Had Legal Rights?

“…legal personhood affords rights of protection to the water to protect it from pollutants, from human-caused climate change impacts and from man-made contamination.” — Kelsey Leonard, Shinnecock tribe member, water and climate science researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

From “Kelsey Leonard: What If Lakes And Rivers Had Legal Rights?” interviewed on the TED radio program “Our relationship with Water” on NPR 8/7/20, rebroadcast 1/31/21.

And the results of today’s exploitative attitude toward water?

“…over 2 billion people … live in countries that are experiencing high water stress currently, and it is anticipated that by 2030, up to 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity.”

For more on the movement toward legal rights of nature, see CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund), headquartered in Mercersburg PA.

TED Talk on Climate by Katharine Hayhoe

You’ll have a chance to listen to more of renowned climate advocate Katharine Hayhoe this spring. Stay tuned! And for starters, view her TED talk here to find out how to talk to people who don’t want to hear facts but may be reached through their personal values. Summary from TED:

How do you talk to someone who doesn’t believe in climate change? Not by rehashing the same data and facts we’ve been discussing for years, says climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. In this inspiring, pragmatic talk, Hayhoe shows how the key to having a real discussion is to connect over shared values like family, community and religion — and to prompt people to realize that they already care about a changing climate. “We can’t give in to despair,” she says. “We have to go out and look for the hope we need to inspire us to act — and that hope begins with a conversation, today.”